Looking frail and downcast as she approached a gathering of other displaced persons seated under a shed at a corner of the expansive compound , Maimuna Said , betrayed her real age in every sense . It was the third day after her 21st birthday but unlike her peers in other parts of the country , who could have treated themselves to some form of pampering for attaining another curve in life ’ s journey on such a day, the young lady –bruised and deeply traumatised by experiences of recent past, has nothing to be cheerful about .
Married off at nine to a man old enough to be her father and already mother to six children at only 21, it is a different reality for Said – one filled with pains and plenty of uncertainties. A resident of Mafa , an agrarian community in the heart of Borno – the epicentre of an eight – year violent campaign by terrorist sect – Boko Haram, life , in recent weeks , has in fact taken a turn for the worse for the young woman and her family.
“ We used to be a very rich family until the insurgents attacked our community, killing a lot of our people in the process,” she said , tears slowly gathering in her eyes. “ We lost friends, family members and neighbours. It was by God ’s mercies that we managed to escape their guns ,” she added , her voice trembling with fear this time.
Now taking refuge in a makeshift apartment in Maiduguri , Borno’s capital , with her husband, Jubril, and six children – including four – month- old Ismail – the youngest of the family, Said like the about two million individuals displaced by the insurgency in North -East Nigeria , have grown to understand what hunger truly means . Once proud owners of farmlands and stores stuffed with different food items , they have mastered the art of skipping meals and enduring several cold , tormenting nights on empty stomachs.
“ What hunger has done to us is more than the harm that Boko Haram has inflicted upon us these past few years,” Said , who could barely communicate in Pidgin English, told our correspondent. But regardless of the challenge this posed , it did not stop her from pouring out her heart. “ On several days if we eat breakfast, we might not eat dinner . We have no choice , we had to learn how to skip meals, ” she revealed painfully . “ My husband has been very supportive. He was a truck driver at Mafa before Boko Haram struck . Now , he gathers firewood, sells to sustain the family. This is not the type of life we used to live ; it is very different from what we ever wished for ourselves ,” the 21- year -old disclosed before finally bursting into tears. It took the efforts of two elderly women sitting close by to calm her down .